Weir won’t return for Griffs

By Nick Veronica

weir

Weir

Reggie Witherspoon’s roster isn’t finished yet after all.

After filling every available scholarship last week, Canisius announced Wednesday that junior guard Adam Weir “has chosen to not return to the Golden Griffin men’s basketball program.”

The press release says Weir, who redshirted his first year at Canisius, has completed his undergraduate degree and wants to focus on getting his MBA.

“It shows his priorities were in place and while we were looking forward to coaching him, we are happy for his achievement and his aspirations going forward,” Witherspoon, the first-year coach, said in the release.

Weir, a graduate of Canisius High School and a former First Team All-Western New Yorker, was mostly a reserve for the Griffs, appearing in 19 games last season. He saw a drop in play time from his redshirt freshman season, when he played in all 33 games.

Weir was mostly known for 3-point shooting, but hit just five last season while shooting 23.8 percent from behind the arc. As a freshman, he hit 15 of 62 triples (24.2%).

Weir did not immediately respond to a message asking if he hoped transfer and continue playing or if he would remain at Canisius for graduate classes.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 4.26.05 PM

Witherspoon adds 3 to fill out first Canisius roster

By Nick Veronica

reggiebill

Reggie Witherspoon with AD Bill Maher

Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon announced the signing of three recruits on Wednesday, completing the roster for his first season.

Witherspoon targeted size with with his final three additions, which was an area of need for the team. He added:

  • Selvedin Planincic, a 6-foot-11, 210-pound JUCO center who has two years of eligibility left;
  • Dantai St. Louis, a 6-8, 235-pound forward from Ontario;
  • and Isaiah Reese, a 6-4 guard from Florida.

The three additions join incoming freshmen Malik Johnson and Spencer Foley, who were signed by Jim Baron.

The additions fill all of Canisius’ available scholarships (UpdateAdam Weir is no longer on the team). The team said Raven Owen, who is named on ESPN’s list of college basketball transfers, has not transferred and is currently enrolled in summer classes.

The team has eight players back from last season, including starters Phil Valenti and Kassius Robertson:

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 5.24.48 PM

Guards: Kassius Robertson, Chris Atkinson, Kiefer Douse, Adam Weir, Raven Owen, Malik Johnson, Isaiah Reese.

Forwards: Phil Valenti, Jermaine Crumpton, Selvedin Planincic, Ronnie Gombe, Spencer Foley, Dantai St. Louis.

(Foley, who’s 6-foot-6, is sometimes listed as a shooting guard, but I put him at forward due to the Griffs’ lack of depth up front. He’ll likely be a swingman who can play both shooting guard small forward.)

Timing not ideal, but Witherspoon ready for challenges at Canisius

By Nick Veronica

May 31 is not an ideal deal day to introduce a new college basketball coach. The fall semester is less than three months away. Worse, recruiting is in what the NCAA calls a “quiet period” until after the Fourth of July, meaning coaches can’t watch recruits play or talk to them in person unless it’s on campus.

Reggie Witherspoon acknowledged those challenges Tuesday morning but took the microphone undeterred as Canisius College named him the 24th coach in school history.

“Canisius has been doing Division I basketball for a long time,” Witherspoon said in front of players, administrators, alumni and even the mayor at the Koessler Athletic Center. 

“It’s not a starter situation, it’s just rough road ahead. The timing is not great. But it’s a program that has been in existence for a long time. You have a lot of alumni who are in the area that care about the program, and I think that’s a plus.”

Witherspoon has been in tough spots before. Consider the circumstances he walked into at his last Division I head coaching job.

Witherspoon took over at UB five games into the 1999-2000 season after Tom Cohane left amid alleged recruiting violations. He was hired on Saturday, Dec. 4. The Bulls played No. 7 North Carolina on Tuesday. After that, it was off to No. 15 Indiana.

That was being thrown into the fire. This is just less than ideal.

“Reggie’s name quickly rose to the top,” Canisius president John Hurley said, “and made it a relatively easy decision.”

When Reggie Witherspoon gets hired, even the mayor stops by.

A post shared by Nick Veronica (@nickveronica) on

=
Athletic director Bill Maher spoke to the urgency in hiring Witherspoon just eight days after Jim Baron’s surprise retirement.

“We had to quickly look at our situation, assess where we were as a program,” Maher said. “There’s only about five weeks left of the summer session before [players] leave for the summer. To give those young men and the new coaching staff the best opportunity to meet, assimilate and understand each other, time was of the essence.”

Funny thing about timing. Witherspoon was back in Buffalo visiting family two weeks ago when a stomach illness delayed his return trip to Chattanooga, where he was an assistant coach.

When he started getting text messages saying Baron had retired, he thought people were playing a prank on him.

“I thought actually it was a joke,” Witherspoon said. “People have been saying, ‘Are you going to come back? Eventually you’ll come back.’ I didn’t see that [about Baron]. We were planning on driving back to Chattanooga and the texts started around 9 in the morning and I really thought they were people joking with me, because we would’ve been on the road. So I thought people were saying, hey, let’s get him when he’s about 400 miles into this trip and just make a joke out of it.

“I got a couple different text messages, and then one of them said ‘Coach Baron retired,’ and ‘SERIOUSLY’ was in all caps with exclamation points,” Witherspoon said. “And then I realized, maybe he did retire. He signed an extension in March and Jim and I are friends so I didn’t see this coming.”

But once the ball got rolling, “It didn’t take long for me to say yes to this opportunity,” Witherspoon added.

witherspoonclan

The entire Witherspoon clan was in attendance at Tuesday’s press conference.

=
He inherits a Canisius team that graduated its leading scorer and starting center. He has four scholarships to fill.

In following Baron, Witherspoon is tasked with replacing a coach who recruited one of the top-five players in school history (even if it was his son), took Canisius to the postseason three times (even if it was the CIT), and forced the school to increase its financial commitment to the program.

Witherspoon, 55, also becomes the first black head coach in the inner-city school’s 112 years of men’s basketball. (Former women’s tennis coach General Bass is believed to be the only other black head coach in school history.)

Witherspoon said returning to coach in his hometown is “an awesome privilege.”

“It’s unusual for Division I coaches to be in a situation where you’re at the press conference and you have your mom here, my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, my wife, my two daughters, my sister-in-law, my brother,” Witherspoon said. “It’s an honor to have that support, care and love here.”

VIDEO: Watch Reggie Witherspoon’s introductory press conference at Canisius

By Nick Veronica

Canisius athletic director Bill Maher introduces Reggie Witherspoon as the school’s new men’s basketball coach Tuesday morning.

Witherspoon begins speaking at about 3:35.

Five things to know about new Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon

Reggie-Witherspoon-630x430

By Nick Veronica

Canisius named Reggie Witherspoon its men’s basketball coach this weekend. He’ll be introduced at a press conference Tuesday morning.

Here are five things to know about the man who coached UB until 2013:

1. Witherspoon’s firing from UB was a surprise


UB averaged 18.4 wins per season over Witherspoon’s final five years as coach. He was well-liked by the community and had three years left on his contract when he was let go. “Firing by UB blindsided Witherspoon,” one headline read.

Failing to take UB to the NCAA Tournament was a leading cause for Witherspoon’s dismissal. But the Danny White factor played a big role, too.

White – a first-year athletic director eager to make his mark on the program before leaving for a bigger job – fired Witherspoon just 10 months after arriving at UB. White would fire eight coaches over his three years in charge.

“Completely shocked,” Akron coach Keith Dambrot said after learning UB had fired Witherspoon. “… Not only is he a quality basketball coach, but he’s one of the most high-character people I’ve ever been around.”

Bobby Hurley, Witherspoon’s replacement, was a splashy hire for White. It’s hard to say bringing in Hurley didn’t work out – he took UB to the NCAA Tournament before leaving for a bigger job himself – but most athletic directors wouldn’t have cut Witherspoon loose just then. Without Danny White, there’s a chance Witherspoon is still coaching UB today.

[RELATED: How do the Griffs look without Jim Baron?]

2. Witherspoon and Canisius’ AD have history together


Witherspoon coached at UB from 1999 until 2013. Canisius athletic director Bill Maher worked there from 1997 until 2005, serving as the interim athletic director for the final two years.

It’s telling how quickly Canisius filled the position, announcing Witherspoon just eight days after Jim Baron retired and without conducting an exhaustive national search.

Bringing in Witherspoon puts Canisius on an odd hiring streak: This makes back-to-back men’s basketball coaches who happened to be the first candidate Maher was asked about after announcing the previous coach’s dismissal.

Maher brought that quirk up on his own at Jim Baron’s press conference last Friday when I asked him about Witherspoon.

“I think Reggie’s a great guy,” Maher said. “He’s continued to stay in coaching. I enjoyed working with him at UB. When we made the decision to not renew Tom [Parrotta], Jim Baron’s name was one of the first ones someone brought up, and I said, ‘We’ll see. It’ll be something we consider for sure.’ So Reggie, if there’s interest from Reggie, I’ll certainly talk to him about it and we’ll go from there.”

[RELATED: How were Witherspoon’s UB teams? A year-by-year look]

3. Witherspoon went to the NCAA tournament last year


An interesting aspect of the Reggie Witherspoon redemption narrative is that he earned his elusive NCAA Tournament trip last season as an assistant with Chattanooga.

The Mocs went 29-6 overall and 15-3 in the Southern Conference before winning the league’s tournament as the top seed. They were seeded 12th in the NCAA Tournament and lost in the first round to Indiana, 99-74.

4. Witherspoon admitted he was depressed when he was out of coaching


Before taking the position at Chattanooga, Witherspoon spent one year as an assistant at Alabama. But before that, he was out of work.

“You lose your sense of usefulness,” Witherspoon said after accepting the position at Alabama. “Yeah, I was depressed. At first it hits you at night, and again when you get out of bed. Then at some point it hits you 24 hours. You feel like it’s with you when you sleep.”

Witherspoon told Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan the best advice he got came from former college coach Bobby Cremins.

“Bobby Cremins told me early, ‘I’ll tell you when it gets really bad,’ ” Witherspoon said. “I said ‘It gets worse?’ He told me to wait until practice starts. Your mind is conditioned to have certain thoughts, visions and feelings. You’re going to feel disconnected when the season starts. He was right. You don’t know what to do. It’s like you’re walking around with a costume on.”

[RELATED: How Jim Baron finally walked away]

5. He’s local


Witherspoon, 55, was born in Buffalo. He starred at Sweet Home High School before playing for John Beilein at ECC – then later coached both of his former schools.

When Witherspoon took over at Sweet Home, he reportedly became the first black basketball coach at a suburban high school in Western New York (in the early 1990s!). Before earning a full-time coaching position at ECC, his day job was selling warehouse supplies, according to that link.

Witherspoon went 43-15 in two years at ECC before becoming the interim coach at UB in 1999 after Tim Cohane resigned five games into the season.

Bonus: His real name is Phillip


According to Witherspoon’s FIBA profile, his full name is Phillip Reginald Witherspoon. The more you know.